Monday, December 12, 2011

Why being a biblicist is wrong

"I don't care about labels. I am just following Jesus, and the Bible." Do such words sound familiar? If so, you may have stumbled upon a biblicist — that group of people whose fidelity to the Scriptures make them think that only a plain and "unbiased" reading of the biblical text will lead one to the truth.

On the surface, such a motto should sound appealing to every Christian. Who after all wants to add the philosophies of Man to the truths of Scripture? The problem however comes when we apply some thought to the issue. Do we interpreters of the Bible, any interpreter, really come to the Bible with a tabula rasa, a blank slate? Is there such a thing as absolute objectivity on the part of any man or woman on earth?

If there is anything where postmodernism has its plus side, it is to remind us that we ourselves are personally involved in the process of knowing and interpreting. We ourselves are situated in this present order, and our own upbringing and environment shapes how we think and to some extent even what we think. All people including myself are biased to some degree or another, and we approach issues not as a blank sheet of paper but as people with preconceived ideas and notions.

The biblicist view therefore is in error. There is no such thing as a "just the Bible" reading. That is why the Reformed churches have never just taken the Bible and read it "afresh" after removing all preconceived ideas from our brains. That is simply silly. What we have done is to take the Bible, read it and interact with others who read it, both our contemporaries and those who have gone before us. Only through interaction will we be able to correct our biases to a much greater extent, all done of course with the understanding that the Scriptures have the final say. We believe in Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), not Solo Scriptura (Scripture only).

Being a biblicist is not good. What is worse is being a biblicist who teaches the Word. We then have the specter of someone teaching his own opinions and affixing the label of divine authority on it, as if his environment and prior education did not influence his interpretation of Scripture at all. That is why James 3:1 is such a solemn verse for those of us who have or will be serving the Lord in some capacity or another as a pastor, teacher, scholar etc.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (Jas. 3:1)

It is a fearful thing to be called to account for the souls of those whom Christ has and will put in our care. One wonders why anyone would want to a teacher of God's truth, unless one is indeed called to this task.

16 comments:

Nick said...

Hello Daniel,

What do you mean by quoting James 3:1? How can there be a "judged with greater strictness" if everyone stands on equal legal footing based on the same Imputation of Christ's Righteousness?

PuritanReformed said...

Hi Nick,

because we are not talking about judgment unto salvation or damnation, but about the judgment of rewards (i.e. how many crowns a person will have) (cf. 1 Cor. 3:12-15)

Nick said...

Hello Daniel,

I'm not sure where you get that distinction (i.e. that there is a judgment strictly about rewards), but even if that were true it seems to 'deflate' the severity of it. If it's about being in care of souls, yet it's only a matter of extra rewards, then really if someone doesn't do their best then it's not much loss.

PuritanReformed said...

@Nick,

the distinction is based on a systematizing of all of what Scripture teaches. On the one hand, Scripture is very clear that salvation is by grace alone. I know you as a Catholic disagree with that, but we see that as abundently clear in Scripture especially in Gal. and Rom. On the other hand, passages such as 1 Cor. 3:12-15 teaches that there are consequences for how we work and act in this life, which does not entail a loss of salvation (cf v. 15).

It is not severe only for those who do not have a biblical worldview. Those who are truly Christ's love and long to please God. To have God frown on their works and reject it is not something that a Christian should ever want.

Nick said...

I would agree with a lot of what you said, but I would hesitate coming up with a second/distinct judgement rather than seeing one.

In other words, I hesitate to think there is a judgment that unbelievers go through which is a judgment of works while there is a distinct judgment believers go through.

I would see this 'one-and-the-same' judgment view in extending 1 Cor 3:12-15 to at least verse 17.

Fred G said...

Good morning,
The scriptures have the final say is interesting. Who determines that final say? Since you have "chosen" to affiliate yourself with the reformed sect then you mean the final say as determined by reformed people. Who determined what the scriptures said before your sect existed? Did everyone go to hell before your guys came on the scene? Did christianity flourish and grow for 1600 years before reformers existed? Quite a few reformers and puritans were as abusive and controlling as alot of the papists.Is this not enough evidence for you to refute reformed foolishness?
You know, being mad at papal abuses is no excuse for creating false doctrines and then holding on to them. As an adult you should say to yourself though i respect the reformers they obviously threw the baby out with the bathwater. You do understand no one is forcing you to believe this reformed poo poo? You do understand its not possible for true Christianity to have only begun in the 1600`s? If so then that implies the flavor of christianity you have latched onto is clearly wrong and twisted.
Notice how your blog is filled with reformed jargon, jargon the apostles and church fathers never used. You are not a christian, your a puritan wannabe hybrid thing. get off the reformed/calvinist bus and be a loving christian. Besides, you people who like to fancy yourselves reformers are impossible to understand. You have taken christianity to a point that only the uber educated can understand what you say. How do i know that, because i was delivered by God from 10 years of being in a reformed church saying all same crap, what a empty christian existence. I can honestly say i didnt understand half the sermons taught there, i see the same stuff on your blog. I dont recall the messiah making things as difficult as yall do.
So with all that said , meditate on the things i have said because they are true. you are above this reformed junk, you are a more mature christian than this "stuff"

Keep it real.....

PuritanReformed said...

@Nick:

that's assuming you have proven that salvation is not by grace alone, which you have not done so.

PuritanReformed said...

@FreG:

the Reformers were only recovering the faith that was lost. Calvin himself cited the church fathers especially Augustine and Crysostom many times. I am not naive enough to say that the Church Fathers were prot-Protestants. Many of them have tendencies in certain areas towards what become known later as Roman Catholicism. Yet what is taught in Protestantism can be found in early Catholicism (not Roman) in people such as Ireneas (Covenant Theology), Augustine (Double predestination), Gottschalk (extreme form of double predestination). David King and William Webster has also proven that the Church Fathers taught the elements of Sola Scriptura while some of them inconsistently have a higher view of tradition than they ought.

Roman Catholicism does not exist before the Council of Trent. As I have said, why should we grant apostolic continuity to the guys who kept the Vatican property, instead of the guys who took much of Northern Europe by storm? So your "sect" does not exist either. It is a fact that the delegates at Trent were dominated by papal legates and not the most scholarly theologians in late medieval Catholicism.

I would suggest you do more reading in church history before speaking of things you are ignorant of. Also, I'm sorry that you do not base your faith on the Word of God. You asked "who determines the final say?" Well, who determines the final interpretation of papal decrees? Who determines what is the best synthesis of Florence and Vatican II regarding the fate of those who are outside the Roman Catholic Church? Are they heretics destined to hell, or those who by no fault of their own if they obey the light of nature could go to heaven?

Ultimately, there is not way to remove the subjective element. Relying on the magisterium only means that you now interpret the magisterium's interpretations instead of interpreting Scripture directly. Your attack on the sufficiency and perspecuity of Scripture should lead to total agnosticism, not even faith in Rome's magisterium.

Joel Tay said...

The distinction between sola and solo is important. 'solo' takes on an arrogant approach which implies that the Spirit has passed over thousands of years of faithful Christians and only reveal it to the reader. When departing from historical interpretations, one ought to trend with great care as chances are, he is wrong. As correctly pointed out in your article, a solo approach leads to a situation where every reader comes up with his own version of truth.

As for Roman catholicism... The protestant churches are.far closer to the first 2 centuries of early church in their doctrine than Roman catholicism... Which seem to be a whole different creature altogether when the first 2 centuries are concerned.

PuritanReformed said...

@Joel:

=P

Shawn Teo Chee Yong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shawn Teo Chee Yong said...

amen daniel..

The one i deleted off is the same on as this ^^

Nick said...

Hello Daniel,

I'm not sure how you can make that claim when I was simply pointing out an exegetical reality: I see nowhere in Scripture where there are two distinct Final Judgments.

For example, when Paul says we will all stand before the Judgment Seat (2 Cor 5:10), I don't see any indication this is a different Judgment Seat than what non-Christians will stand before.

PuritanReformed said...

@Nick:

and I just showed you that exegetically there must be, since the judgment in 1 Cor. 3 does not concern salvation (even the one whose work is burnt up is still saved).

Nick said...

There is no reason why the same Heaven/Hell judgement cannot include the 1 Cor 3 component. Indeed, I see that as the only way to harmonize the other Judgment passages (e.g. 2 Cor 5:10).

Further, within 1 Cor 3 we see the Hell provision (3:16-17; cf 6:18-19), as well as in other details of the Epistle (e.g. 6:9-10; 9:27; 11:32).

PuritanReformed said...

@Nick:

1 Cor. 3:16-17 does not contradict the explicit teaching in verse 15 that if the person doing works not built on the foundation will still be saved. It is talking about the justice of God, and nowhere does it imply that the person who is destroying God's temple is the person who is saved.

Warnings are not judgments. Otherwise, you will have to say that those in danger of falling away are not able to be saved (cf Heb. 6:1-8).